Category Archives: Overcoming the Past

The Baggage Handler

A friend of mine recently shared about the baggage she had hauled around for years. She wished that she’d understood the truth earlier in life that we simply aren’t meant to carry the hurts and the pain from the past.  When we refuse to let them go, the sheer weight of it holds us back and keeps us down. Her story, inspired me to write this poem.

The baggage that I haul around
Is cumbersome and heavy
It’s bursting with pain I hide
That part of life that’s messy
I know that you can’t see my bags
So I try to pretend
That my life has been perfect
When it’s been kind of grim.

Sometimes when I am all alone
I open up the bags
I look inside and cry about
The wounded child within
The little one that needed love
When hurt and pain occurred
The child longing just to hear
One encouraging word
That teenager that struggled
From a terrible event
The young adult who made mistakes
And then felt guilt and shame
My troubles and my trials
That I work hard to manage
Each have their place; hidden away
Deep within my baggage.

If I let go of all these bags
My load would be so light
But I can’t leave that wounded child
How could that be right
It would be an injustice
To set the contents free
For I still want to make things right
For then I will have peace
So I just keep on struggling
Beneath the weight I carry
Feeling like I can’t go on
Though I keep on trying
I tell myself “Keep pushing on”
“Keep holding it together”
But all the weight is pressing in
I’m breaking from the pressure.

A friend told me, I wasn’t meant
To struggle with this load
That Jesus died to bear my yoke
Though it’s dark and heavy
He doesn’t care about my past
He only sees the future
So I looked up and gave my heart
To my Lord and Savior
Then in my deep exhaustion
I laid down all my bags
To let the contents come out
To expose those filthy rags
I took a breath, undid the latch
I let my Savior see…
And as He took my baggage…
I cried… for I was free

Matthew 11:28
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

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The Baggage Handler

I recently heard a friend talk about the baggage she had hauled around for years.  She wished that she understood the truth earlier in life that we simply aren’t  meant to carry the hurts and the pain from the past, because they hold us back and keep us down.  Her story, inspired me to write this poem.

The baggage that I haul around
Is cumbersome and heavy
It’s bursting with pain I hide
That part of life that’s messy
I know that you can’t see my bags
So I try to pretend
That my life has been perfect
When it’s been kind of grim.

Sometimes when I am all alone
I open up the bags
I look inside and cry about
The wounded child within
The little one that needed love
When hurt and pain occurred
The child longing just to hear
One encouraging word
That teenager that struggled
From a terrible event
The young adult who made mistakes
And then felt guilt and shame
My troubles and my trials
That I work hard to manage
Each have their place; hidden away
Deep within my baggage.

If I let go of all these bags
My load would be so light
But I can’t leave that wounded child
How could that be right
It would be an injustice
To set the contents free
For I still want to make things right
For then I will have peace
So I just keep on struggling
Beneath the weight I carry
Feeling like I can’t go on
Though I keep on trying
I tell myself “Keep pushing on”
“Keep holding it together”
But all the weight is pressing in
I’m breaking from the pressure.

A friend told me, I wasn’t meant
To struggle with this load
That Jesus died to bear my yoke
Though it’s dark and heavy
He doesn’t care about my past
He only sees the future
So I looked up and gave my heart
To my Lord and Savior
Then in my deep exhaustion
I laid down all my bags
To let the contents come out
To expose those filthy rags
I took a breath, undid the latch
I let my Savior see…
And as He took my baggage…
I cried… for I was free

Matthew 11:28
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

God’s Healing Hand On a Wounded Heart

Lord God, I kneel at your feet

Head resting in my hands

Tears of pain flowing without restraint

 

My soul, battered, is without hope

My dreams of love and acceptance gone

Success, I’m unable to define

 

You let me cry, uninterrupted

Knowing I must taste the bitterness of pain

And acknowledge its vise like grip on my heart

 

Slowly I sit,  lifting my head and hands up to you

an honest prayer is uttered, no more pretense,

pride and self-righteousness are gone.

 

“take my battered heart, oh Lord

It feels constricted and small

Like a piece of paper, crumpled into a ball.

 

It’s beat is irregular,

emphasizing the deep wounds

and my desperate state of mind.”

 

Your strong hands encompass mine

Comforting and warm

Applying pressure without pain

 

My wounded heart beats a little faster

A  rhythm I’m unfamiliar with

Steady, strong, sure, secure

 

You, oh Lord, massage the healing balm

Of forgiveness and acceptance into my heart

A spark of hope glows deep within.

 

The Holy Spirit breathes the breath of life

Into my heart, mind and body

Smoothing out the crumpled edges of my life

 

Lord God Almighty, you are the great healer

Of wounded hearts

Restoring hope and purpose to those who love you

 

To God be all glory and praise.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Below are the lines from a chore in Jeremy Camp’s Healing Hand of God and a link to his video. Enjoy this beautiful song.

I have seen, The healing hand of God, Reaching out and mending broken hearts. Taste and see the fullness of His peace, And hold on to what’s being held out. The healing hand of God.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-aE7zQTeEg

 

 

Hope in our Frailty

God frequently uses people for His glory that we as humans would never choose. That fact gives me hope that no matter how insignificant, untalented, or floundering we or those we love might be, there is always hope. The bible is full of unlikely individuals that have made a vast difference in the world in spite of the odds. The very people you and I might pass over are often the ones that God chooses because he sees into the heart and chooses the ones that have a heart for Him. He doesn’t care about who we are, where we’re from, or how much money we have. With that in mind, who knows what God has in store for you and those you love!

A simple man with no big plans
No lofty goals consume him.
He didn’t come from wealth or gain
Nor high class education.
Most think he won’t amount to much
His future’s etched in stone,
But thank the Lord, God values man
By his heart alone.
A waitress working hard each day
Just trying to pay the bills.
She wasn’t born to silver spoon
Nor were her wants fulfilled.
Just working class and most would think
For her there’ll be no change;
But we don’t know, what God has planned
Nor what He has arranged.
God sees beyond her circumstance
Fulfilling hidden dreams.
Think about a fisherman,
Who worked in Galilee.
A simple man from lower class
He was no Pharisee.
He worked each day, just catching fish;
Obscure from most mankind.
Until the Son of God called out,
“Come fish for souls of man.”
From that moment forward
Peter was transformed,
When God perplexed the ways of man,
And shattered social norms.
David was the youngest son;
A simple shepherd boy.
He had no right to leadership;
Nor kingly path in store.
But God saw David differently
He cared not for mans rules;
For He knew David’s heart was right;
Humble, pure, and true.
God chose the one least obvious
To demonstrate His might;
And David’s place in history
Became Christ’s holy line.

 

God is not confined by man
We cannot know His mind.
He chooses those we least expect
To show that He is God.
He doesn’t look at privileged lives,
Nor beauty, fame, or brains.
He looks into the heart of man
And chooses in that way.
So if your life seems simple;
No wealth or fame in sight.
It really doesn’t matter,
For God only sees your heart.
Do you have a heart for Him?
A longing in your soul?
To serve and grow, to always change;
To give His love to all?
If you do, then rest assured
That God will bless you too.
And you will see what God has planned,
For someone just like you.

 

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Forgiving, Again

I’m sitting at my desk with the computer on, iPod playing with an inviting, warm mug of coffee sitting next to me.  They are waiting patiently for me to start work, but I don’t.  My feet are resting on the edge of my desk while I hold our big, fat cat in my lap.  She contentedly purrs and occasionally nuzzled me on the chin.  Absently, I notice how her soft, heavy, weight in my lap feels comforting.  I continue to stare out the window lost in thought.

My chest feels heavy like an invisible brick is pushing down hard between my breasts, my head aches, but it’s the heavy sensation on my chest that’s troubling me.  The weight isn’t the beginning of a heart attack; it’s the result of years of hurt.  This brick has been carefully constructed by the fibrous tissue of judgment, verbal abuse, bitterness, unjust behavior, self-protection, and un-forgiveness.  And it’s heavy, pressing down on my sternum making it hard to breathe.

The unusual thing about this brick is that it’s frequently weightless, as if gone from my life.  During this time my heart is hopeful and I want to spend time considering and praying about my relationships.  With a hopeful spirit I choose to forgive; I choose to lay my hurts down before God. I desire to draw closer to Him and see others through His eyes.

Then something happens to set off old patterns of abuse and hurtful words are hurled through the air and I feel the impact of them.   I feel them working their way into the brick, finding a comfortable resting place next to the other festering pain.  The brick is back, heavier than before, pressing mercilessly down on my sternum and I wonder how all those negative, hurtful emotions from the past can come back with such force after I have chosen to forgive and let them go. 

So, here I sit at my desk with every necessary tool for a productive day.  But instead of working, I watch the tree branches move to the rhythm of the wind while pondering the uncomfortable pressure of the emotional brick on my chest.  I want to know how to truly lay down the hurt from yesterday.  I want to forgive so deeply that past pain will not have the power to mix with and amplify the hurts of today.  But, I’m human and for some unknown reason God made us emotionally complex beings that feel passionately, struggle mightily, and desperately need His guidance.

With this knowledge I ask God for his forgiveness and help.  I acknowledge my pain is real, but so is theirs.  I admit my part in the situation, because I’m not innocent.  Then I thank God for the good within my loved one and within myself; we are both God’s children.  And the brick gets lighter; for now.  Each time I practice seeking God’s truth in the midst of emotional pain they strengthen me and give me courage to forgive, again.

I’m grateful that God’s forgiveness is not like that of humans, Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions (sins) from us.”  This verse is comforting and humbling; how can God forgive so completely?  I long to be able to forgive like God, but as of today, I don’t fully understand how to forgive the transgressions of others.  Maybe that’s the point. Maybe our seriously limited ability to forgive keeps us humble before God.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

 

The Bitterness Weed

The Bitterness Weed

Bitterness:    Strong and sharp in taste: having a sharp strong unpleasant taste.  Angry and resentful Difficult to accept: mentally painful, or very hard to accept Synonyms: sour, acid, acidic, tart, astringent, vinegary, pungent, harsh, acrid

I’ve been thinking about the act of being bitter and how bitterness, if not dealt with, can affect every aspect of our lives.  Bitterness can blind a person to the love that is around them.  Bitterness has the power to turn a person inward, making them selfish and self-consumed.  A bitter heart becomes brittle and intolerant.  A bitter person will find the bad in every situation, unable to see the good.  Bitterness can strangle our creative energy.  And a bitter heart is unable to open up to God’s love, it is unable to trust in God’s love because it is always in a state of self-protection.

Bitterness is like a weed, it is a living organism that need sustenance to survive and when it’s thriving it has the power to weaken our emotional, physical, and spiritual health.  The Bitterness Weed is nourished by our judgmental, negative, self-righteous, and unforgiving thoughts.  Because bitterness is living, it will either grow or wither depending on our ability to starve it with forgiveness or feed it with judgment.  Starving bitterness is not for the weak of spirit.  It requires surrendering our right to justifiable anger and judgment.  It demands that we not seek retribution ourselves for our pain, but allow God’s justice, which is a mystery to most of us, to have control.

All of us at one time or another have thought, “They don’t deserve forgiveness” or “It’s not fair, they feel no pain and are suffering no consequence for their destructive behavior” and we’re right, it’s not fair from a human point of view.  So, in an effort to bring justice to the situation, we self-righteously judge the individual deeming them unworthy of forgiveness.  And then we move on, right?  Nope.

The problem is we’re not capable of judging others harshly and moving on.  We continue to judge them in our thoughts and before we know it, we’re feeding the weed of bitterness.  Each time we ruminate over their bad actions and reassure ourselves of our righteous judgment, the bitterness weed grows stronger. Before long our outlook on life becomes more negative and our prayer time less frequent, and the Bible sits unopened for longer stretches of time on our night stand.

Before long we become bitter, leaving a sharp and unpleasant taste in the mouths of our friends and family.  Unbeknown to ourselves we’ve become acrid in our attitudes and relationships.  We have officially become bitter because of our self-righteous right to judge and not forgive.  We now have a healthy, bitter-weed garden within our spirit that only God can eradicate.

It’s true that starving bitterness is not for the weak of spirit.  It takes unmeasurable amounts of faith, humility, and forgiveness to starve bitterness from our spirit.  But if we choose to do so, God will help us, He will give us strength when we have none, and the courage to continue to forgive even when it seems like justice is not being served.  God’s ways can be a mystery to us, but when we follow them they always replace bitterness with beauty.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

Colossians 3:12-14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Ephesians 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

 

 

 

God’s Healing Hand On a Wounded Heart

healing-hand-of-god

I kneel at your feet

Head resting in my hands

Tears of pain flowing without restraint

 

My soul, battered, is without hope

My dreams of love and acceptance gone

Success, I’m unable to define

 

You let me cry, uninterrupted

Knowing I must taste the bitterness of pain

And acknowledge its vise like grip on my heart

 

Slowly I sit and lift my hands up to you

“Take my battered heart, oh Lord

It feels constricted and small from the wounds

 

Like a piece of paper, crumpled into a ball

No longer resembling its original purpose

Rendered of little value or use.”

 

Your strong hands encompass mine

Comforting and warm

Applying pressure without pain

 

My wounded heart beats a little faster

With a rhythm I’m unfamiliar with

Steady, strong, sure, secure

 

A healing balm of forgiveness and acceptance

Is  massaged into my heart

A spark of hope glows deep within

 

The Holy Spirit breathes the breath of life

Into my heart, mind and body

Smoothing out the crumpled edges of my life

 

Lord God Almighty, you are the great healer

Of wounded hearts and messed up lives

Restoring hope and purpose to those who love you

 

To God be all glory and praise.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

Below are the lines from a chorus in Jeremy Camp’s Healing Hand of God and a link to his video. Enjoy this beautiful song.

I have seen, The healing hand of God, Reaching out and mending broken hearts. Taste and see the fullness of His peace, And hold on to what’s being held out. The healing hand of God.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-aE7zQTeEg

Are You There God?

i-ask-god-the-question-why

Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

 

Are you there God, listening to my prayer?

Can you see my breaking heart?

Do you care God, that my strength is gone?

My body and mind are numb.

 

Are you there God, listening to my prayer?

Can you see my parents, ravaged with dementia?

Drooling and muttering, not knowing my name.

I no longer exist to them.

 

Are you there God, listening to my prayer?

Can you see my friend lost in mental illness?

Homeless, clueless, mad at the world

Unable to make decisions for his own best interest.

 

Are you there God, listening to my prayer?

Diligently I work, giving my all

While others refuse to contribute

Then take credit for the results as their own.

 

Are you there God, listening to my prayer?

My loved one is addicted and lives in denial

It’s always someone else’s fault

They’ve mastered the art of victimhood.

 

Are you there God, Listening to my prayer?

The world is crazy, out of control.

Good is called evil and evil good.

Those who speak truth are shunned.

Those who speak lies are called leaders.

 

I cry out to God, my heart is breaking.

God, do you hear my prayer?

Are you aware of my loved ones pain?

Please show me that you are there.

 

God answers in His word

Yes, I am here

I am near the brokenhearted and save the crushed in spirit.

I will wipe away every tear from your eye.

 

I am your fortress and high tower

I will wrap my wings for protection around you

My power is made perfect in weakness

I will never leave you nor forsake you

 

I will renew your strength.

You will soar on wings like eagles;

You will run and not grow weary,

You will walk and not be faint.

 

God is our refuge and strength,

An ever-present help in trouble.

Even in darkness my light shines.

Yes, I am with you.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God Made You…You

gods-plan

Know you have a purpose, that God designed you for
Each trait and quirky detail that makes you who you are
He molded you with intent, designed you through and through
So never doubt the Potter’s work; see yourself through His view.

Our holy God decided, to make you like you are
There’s no mistake, you’re wonderful; a glorious shining star
Care not for the world’s values, the world knows not the truth
Embrace what God created; for you are not a fluke.

God gave us gifts and talents, entrusted for good use
To grow and nurture every day, so God’s plan can be loosed
No matter if they’re great or small, use them for His glory
Don’t discount what God’s given you, for He wrote your life story.

The devil wants to ravage, what God designed in us
He works to twist God’s perfect plan with lies that mar and crush
He takes life’s hurt and trials, to warp us through and through
He takes a hurtful word, and convinces us it’s true.

He even says we’re worthless; why would we even try
And then says selfishness is good; all means are justified
But we are vessels formed with love; designed before our birth
It’s satan lies that misalign, what God himself brought forth.

So recognize the devil’s goal is to make you crumble
And when he throws his poison darts; stand, don’t fall or stumble
Don’t believe the devil’s lies that steal and foster shame
For God made you with great intent, so break all satan’s chains.

Know you have authority to bruise the devil’s head
To walk upon his every lie, to become all God’s planned
God loves you and he made you, just the way you are
Fall on your knees and seek His face, he’ll melt away your scars.

God has a plan for each of us, even though we’ve failed
And as we humbly yield to Him, with new wings we shall sail
What satan used for evil, our God will use for gain
O Praise the Lord, we are set free, exalt the His holy name.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Psalms 139:   13,14 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

God’s Great Symphony

Image result for pictures of a symphony
The flow of God’s timing released in our lives
Requires our trust and to stop taking charge
It puts faith front and center and God on His throne
And trusting God’s timing for He alone knows.

You’ve been praying and praying for that unsaved soul
You’ve been asking the Lord to set free all your goals
Rest and wait; He’s at work, in ways we can’t see
Its God’s perfect rhythm and timing we need.

If what we think is best, is not moving forward
If our hopes and our dreams are lost deep in the forest
Don’t give up, don’t despair, and don’t take control
Let the unforced rhythm, of God’s script, soothe your soul.

As long as we’re breathing, there’s a chance to touch lives
With each human contact we’re God’s hands and His light
Even if our lives seem insignificant and small
We’re notes in God’s rhythm and play a great part.

Each life in this world is wanted by God
The great and the small are equally flawed
He has ordained what each man’s roll will be
It’s the unforced rhythm, of God’s great symphony.

Rest where you are, move forward in faith
Submitting all outcomes; He knows the right pace
He hears all our prayers; holds our tears in His hand
As we wait on His timing He’ll help us to stand.

God’s timing is music, it’s a heavenly chorus
As we wait on our Lord, it is beauty before Him
We praise You O God, the true Great I AM
For only You know the beginning from end.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

The Importance of Being Grateful

                    cross in sunset

Pam sat in the small auditorium eagerly waiting to hear the main speaker at the church’s women’s retreat.  The theme of the retreat was “Living a Grateful Life” and she desperately wanted help in understanding how to live daily with a grateful attitude.  Somehow over the last several years her attitude toward life in general and her family specifically had become negative.  Pam knew her negative attitude was damaging her most precious relationships and that it wasn’t honoring God.  With her whole heart she desired to change, but it was difficult establishing a new way of thinking.

The speaker began. “Lately I’ve been thinking about how important the act of being grateful is and how it can effect our everyday lives.  Learning to live a grateful life is such an important goal that when I type “being grateful” into the Amazon search box the results show 22,226 titles concerning this topic.  The Bible has more than 68 verses that specifically address being grateful or thankful to God for and in all our circumstances.   Pam thought, “68 verses!  I didn’t realize how important being grateful was to God.” 

The speaker continued.  “Why is it important to God that we Christians discipline ourselves in having a grateful spirit?  I think it’s because the act of being thankful focuses our minds on God, and His faithful hand of provision.  It puts the emphases on God and diminishes the frustration of our daily trials.  Practicing a grateful attitude helps us see and appreciate the many blessings God has given us, even when the blessings turn into momentary trials. ”Pam identified with this last statement; so many things she’d once considered a blessing had become trials in her life.

The speaker went on.  “A grateful attitude is a powerful attitude because it can change our body language, tone of voice, thought pattern, and interaction with others.  A grateful attitude increases our energy and inspires those around us.  A grateful attitude will help keep us mindful of the fact that we are blessed by God and he loves us mightily.  A grateful attitude may not change our situation or circumstances, but it will help give us strength while going through them and make our days much more enjoyable.”  Pam wanted to be grateful; she wanted to be a blessing to others.

Next the speaker addressed the damaging effects of a negative attitude.  “On the other hand a negative attitude will have the opposite effect.  It will drain our energy, change our body language, tone of voice, thought pattern, and interaction with others, for the worse.  And it will discourage those around you.  A negative attitude will hinder our prayer life and Bible reading.  That’s why as Christians it’s imperative that we discipline ourselves daily to have a grateful attitude.”  Pam felt like the speaker was describing her and felt deep pain within her spirit.  She prayed for God’s forgiveness.

Concluding, the speaker addressed specifically how a God honoring attitude of gratefulness impacts the family.  “Sometimes our greatest blessings can also be our greatest struggles.  For example our families are indeed a great blessing.  However, when our husband’s idiosyncrasies start bugging us or when the children are whining, fighting, and generally driving us crazy, they can feel more like a curse than a blessing. This is when we need to practice the discipline of being grateful instead of giving in to negative thoughts about our loved ones.  If we allow that initial negative thought to take root in our minds, it can quickly grow and before long our annoyance with a few little quirks becomes the filter through which we see our spouses or children.  That’s why we need to discipline our minds to be thankful to God for the many blessings He has given us including our families instead of dwelling on our irritation with them.  When we choose to do this it will bring our negative thoughts into captivity and release ourselves to love as God has instructed us to love.”

That’s what Pam wanted, to honor God by disciplining her mind to be grateful, enabling her to love as God intended.  The speaker passed out a list of Bible verses about gratefulness, Pam read them and determined to use them as her daily guide to disciplining her mind to be grateful daily.

Psalm 100: 1-5 (A Psalm for giving thanks.)  Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. 

 Ephesians 5:20 Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Philippians 4:6   do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Philippian 4:8   Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

 

My Child; Come Forth!

free

Call forth Your people, into their true purpose
Out of the tomb and the grave clothes that bind us
Strip off the chains that have taken us captive
Set free our purpose to blossom and practice.

Sometimes it’s comfortably safe in the tomb
Where no one can hurt us and failure can’t loom
But each life’s important to God’s perfect plan
And failure to launch is what Satan demands.

Life’s pressures and hurts have blinded our eyes
They’ve robbed us of purpose and bound us in lies
But God has a plan for you and for me
To unbridle our gifts and set our talents free.

Gifts aren’t just arts, or teaching, or leading
But also of serving, hospitality, and giving
Together we form an ornate tapestry
That blesses our God and proclaims His majesty!

Lazarus was done; he’d been buried for days
It seemed all was lost and there was no way
But God’s mighty power called him out of the grave
To start life again, to be new; to be saved!

Out of the tomb, our mighty God calls us
He say’s “Child come forth, be free from the darkness!”
Strip off the grave clothes and soar like a bird
Become what I made you and no longer fear!

Embrace who God’s made you; you’re His great creation
Blossom and grow in your purpose and station
Do all that you do, as unto our Lord
Not for worldly approval that will come and go.

Bless Your name Father, our Creator, our Lord
Its You, Mighty God that we will adore
May we be a fragrance of blessing to You
As we use what You give us, with hearts humble and true.

 

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Well Done My Faithful Servant!

purpose

This is it. We have one life to be our very best.
To make the most of every day; to live our lives with zest,
To value most the things that last; to not be easily daunted,
To focus hard on good and right and blessings God has granted.
Though life is sometimes filled with trials; still what a gift it is!
There’s always good, if we’ll just look, for God is in our midst!

Each day live life like there’s no more, with purpose and intent,
With focus on relationships and in them, always give.
For when we reach our final hour, that’s all we’ll care about,
Not all the things that we acquired or a big bank account.
Did we love with all our heart? …Did we pour out kindness?
Did we forgive when we were wronged, like God’s forgiven us?

God has a special purpose, that He designed you for,
And you have gifts and talents, that should not be ignored.
For you can make a difference in this lost and lonely world,
And you are valued by our God, like gems and precious pearls.
We weren’t created to exist in passive isolation,
But we were made to grow and share Almighty God’s salvation.

When morning breaks take time to pause; commit the day to God,
Decide to bloom where you are planted and on each problem, trod.
Don’t be defined by past mistakes, but rather learn from them,
And you will blossom in your life and truly overcome!
Pride will never bring true gain… but it will bring a fall,
For there is nothing we can do, that God does not control.

Oh Father help us see in life, the things that really matter.
Help us fulfill Your glorious call and raise a victor’s banner!
Help us know our purpose, and help us see our gifts,
Help us rise when we could fall; pour courage into us.
Then on that day, when we stand before our God and Maker,
We’ll hear the words come from our God “Well done my faithful servant!”

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Take Every Thought Captive

Take every thought captive and you will stand strong
Resist all temptation to fixate on wrongs.
Focus on things that are good, pure, and true,
With a heart that is thankful and mind that’s renewed.
We must stay alert to our thoughts and dark musings
Or they’ll take control and like mountains, stand looming.
They’ll shadow the light that God always shines
The light that brings hope into hearts and to minds.

Negative thoughts run us down rabbit holes
And Its hard to get out, for the thoughts take control.
They cover God’s truth and seep through the mind
And to everything lovely, the eyes become blind.
Allowing our thoughts to grow negative roots
Will taint every word and produce ugly fruit.
They will rob needed sleep and waste precious time
And Satan just smiles for we bought his lie.

Focus your mind on things worthy of praise
Renewing your mind in the Lord every day.
Be constantly thankful, let joy set the tone
For negative thoughts will dry up our bones.
If we will just trust Him and see through His eyes
With hearts full of worship to our God on high.
The peace that surpasses all man’s understanding
Will rule in our hearts over negative rantings.

Let your heart not be troubled, do not be afraid
For we are God’s children so don’t be dismayed.
Take every thought captive in line with God’s truth
Confess sin and failings and His peace will ensue.
Press on to the goal that we have through Christ
And bless Father God with our thoughts, words, and lives.
Help us oh Lord to recall Your commands
So we might obey and in holiness stand.

May we hear our own words; may we become wise
So we see ourselves through Your holy eyes.
We extol You our God; bless Your name forever
Array us in hope no matter the weather.
May the words of our heart and our meditations
Be acceptable to You our Savior; Redeemer.
We bow before You, the King of all Kings
May Your light fill our hearts and Your peace fill our dreams.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen
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God’s Amazing Grace

cross in sunset

  Grace: Unmerited divine assistance given

Humans for their regeneration or sanctification.

 A virtue coming from God.

 

Grace from above pours over me.

Spilling freely from God’s never ending cup.

Washing clean my darkened mind, bringing rest to my soul.

 

His healing ointment of grace soothes away

My guilt and shame, restoring peace to my spirit

Setting me free from the bondage of sin.

 

My arms open wide to receive His grace.

It envelops me inside and out.

I kneel and weep at His feet for a forgiveness underserved.

 

God’s abundant grace releases me

From the stifling power of fear

Freeing me from the whispering lies of insecurity.

 

His grace filled Word offers hope and strength

Replacing all condemnation from the past

Freeing me to be creative, loving, forgiving.

 

I’m loved by God, with all my flaws.

He values me as a precious jewel.

He has plans to prosper me and give me hope.

 

God’s grace has the power to change my life,

Heal relationships and mend my broken heart.

God’s amazing grace sets me free from the past.

 

Amazing grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now I’m found

Was blind but now I see.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

The Healing of a Wounded Soul

                Healing the wounded soul          

Amy let out a guttural growl followed by a loud “darn it!” Protectively, she wrapped her wounded finger tightly with the other hand, applying pressure hoping to alleviate the pain. Her frustration level was already high today. The kids were ornery and her husband Chuck appeared to be deliberately employing every last irritating quality he had.   Accidentally smacking her already injured finger on the counter’s edge was the end of her rope. She could feel the irritation boiling up inside; a full hissy-fit was about to erupt. “Family hide”, she thought, “I’m one unpleasant women right now.”

While running cold water over the offended finger hoping to minimize the pain,  Amy realized the house had grown strangely quiet. “Odd” she thought “they were just here deliberately bugging me.”  Putting some crushed ice in a zip-lock bag she headed to the family room for a little rest; the house was still quiet. Her mommy instincts said it would be wise to see where everyone went, but she didn’t want to, she wanted peace and quiet.

Lying down on the couch she propped up her right hand on a pillow. The pain was subsiding a bit however, her irritation was not. Lately, Chuck had been difficult, prickly like a Sea anemone, reacting to everything negatively. At first Amy had given him grace, after all his career had hit a difficult patch. But instead of receiving her grace with the minutest amount of gratefulness, he’d became more difficult. Amy’s feelings were hurt. She believed her reaction to his prickly mood would be different, maybe her patience greater, if they hadn’t been through so many difficult years already. Amy felt used up and tired. Why couldn’t Chuck just grow-up, mature, evolve, become a better man; and stay that way instead of lapsing back into old negative patterns?

Her finger began to throb even with ice on it and she wondered if it was broken; the house was still quiet. Laying there absorbed in her pain a thought wiggled its way into her considerations. Her wounded finger was much like her relational wounds with Chuck. Both wounds were easily injured and each time it seemed to take longer for them to heal. Truth is, sometimes the reinjured wound hurt more than the original one. “How many times do I have to forgive the same old bad behavior” she stewed. “God, I don’t want to forgive him again, please help me, I know it’s the right thing to do.”

An uncomfortable thought floated across Amy’s mind. “How many times has God forgiven you for the same sin?” “Is your intolerant reaction to Chuck’s bad behavior equally bad behavior?” Amy didn’t like this thought, it put way too much responsibility on her; after all Chuck was the one with issues. This self-righteous attitude didn’t last long, she could feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Again, “Is your reaction to Chuck’s bad behavior also sinful behavior?” She thought about all the self-righteous thoughts she’d had and the disrespectful words uttered in response to his prickly behavior. Painfully, it dawned on her that her own destructive behavior could be hindering both of their emotional and spiritual healing.

“Oh God please forgive me; forgive me for not forgiving as you forgave me. Forgive me for being such a hypocrite. Please help me to see Chuck as you see him. Please help me treat him in a way that honors you. I’m sorry God, I didn’t realize how out of line I was.” Amy knew she needed to ask Chuck’s forgiveness and that was going to be tough.

“Why aren’t you holding Chuck accountable for his bad behavior?” she complained to God, even though she knew the answer. Everyone is responsible for their own behavior, it’s the only behavior we can control. “Ok God, I’ll humble myself and ask for forgiveness.”

Suddenly the kids and Chuck appeared with a bouquet of flowers freshly picked from the yard and some homemade cards. Stunned, she asked, “What’s this?” “We’re sorry for being ornery today, will you forgive us?” Yes, of course I will. Thank you kids.” Now it was Chucks turn.  He approached her with one beautiful red rose, got down on his knees and said, “Honey, I’m sorry for being such a negative guy lately, please forgive me.” Amy stared at him for a few moments then did what she knew she must. “I forgive you honey, but will you also forgive me; I’ve been harsh and disrespectful toward you.” Chuck looked at her and said, “I’ve waited years to hear you say that. Yes, I forgive you.”

An uncomfortable sensation enveloped Amy. “He’s been waiting years to hear me say that? He thinks I’m the one with issues!” She started to laugh and the kids and Chuck looked confused at her reaction. “We’re all such nuts,” she said “perfectly imperfect nuts and blessed beyond measure to have each other and God’s unmerited grace.”

May you be humbled with God’s gentle hand of correction and may you know you’re blessed to have an imperfect family that loves you.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

A Letter of Joy

                    Letter of Joy

Tears slid down Leanna’s face while she read the ESPN article about her brother’s life. She knew the story was coming out, they’d interviewed her for it, but somehow it still hurt. Ben had been brilliant, charming, a gifted strategist, and a hard worker; a coaching superstar. The talking heads proclaimed him virtually unstoppable, at the top of his game and predicted he’d move on to the NFL soon. With remarkable speed Ben had scaled the equivalent of Mount Everest in the coaching world; coaching football at a Top 10 University. Leanna’s mind drifted back in time reliving the excitement of watching him coach; he’d been so passionate and animated, a sideshow worth watching. Rubbing her weeping eyes she squinted once again at the computer screen.

Eventually all coaches hit a losing streak that shakes their confidence and leaves them questioning their sanity. Ben’s losing streak found him unprepared and ill-equipped to handle the stress. Many coaches seek counseling or religion to deal with it, but Ben chose to find solace in booze. The truth is, he’d been using alcohol as a coping tool for years; a life pattern had been set. Unfortunately after the losing streak ended, his drinking didn’t.   The respect he once held with other coaches on his team began to diminish and before long he was on probation. For a while Ben was able to hang onto his pinnacle position with the help of well-meaning coworkers, friends, and family who made excuses for his erratic behavior. Ultimately, he was fired and soon after that his wife filed for divorce. The golden boy was losing his sheen. A smaller university hired then fired him; a pattern that repeated itself many times over the next ten years.

Eventually, Ben found himself coaching a small, unknown team in Italy. It’s a long, lonely road from the top of the coaching world to the bottom and Ben’s decent had been a slow, painful, journey marked by failed coaching positions and relationships. He was self-destructive and it appeared to all his decent was unstoppable, and there it was written on the internet for all the world to read. She felt Ben’s life was being invaded and violated.

Leanna pressed back in her chair then stretched out like a starfish. It was so devastating having her brother’s life spread over the internet, waiting for judgment from all who read it. She could hear them saying, “what a loser, a mess, and a failure.” The article focused almost entirely on his faults as if there was nothing good left inside him. Over his ten year decent he’d gone to rehab twice and stayed sober for almost a year each time, but then something would trigger his addiction and he’d lose another job.

Ben and Leanna had had a tough childhood that left deep emotional scars on both. Leanna turned to Christianity to help heal those scares while Ben chose alcohol. He had been accepting of her faith and attended church with her when he visited. Thoughtful by nature, he sent her and the kids little trinkets from wherever he’d found work. He called regularly to see how she and the kids were doing, usually his words were slurred and his voice altered by the alcohol, but she was always grateful to hear his voice. Each phone call ended with her praying for him and the few times she’d forgotten to pray he’d say, “Aren’t you going to pray?” This warmed her heart and gave her hope. For Leanna’s part she’d send him Christian books about athletes who had turned their lives around by trusting God or music with a Christ centered message with hopes of softening his heart toward God. He read the books and would ask questions about the content, but never took the initial step toward belief in God.

The call notifying her of Ben’s death had come in the middle of the night. She would never forget the shock, disbelief, and bone crushing grief she felt at that moment. Leanna had laid in bed sobbing for hours mourning his life and his lost chance for redemption. The first week after Ben’s death she cried out God in frustration and disappointment, how could He let Ben die without saving him first. After a week of being mad at God and questioning His love she made an appointment to talk with her pastor. She needed answers.

How could she trust a God who didn’t answer the one prayer that lay deepest in her heart? Heading to the car for her appointment with the pastor she walked across the street to collect the mail. Absentmindedly thumbing through it she suddenly stopped. There tucked between the electric bill and junk mail was a letter from Ben. At first she just held it, as if holding her brother. Carefully she opened it not wanting to damage anything he’d touched. The letter started off newsy, his job was fine although the players were dumb as logs and slow as slugs. The food was good but his apartment was small and moldy. The second paragraph started with, “I’ve something to tell you that will make you happy, very happy. I’ve been rereading all those books you sent and started watching some preachers online and well, I’m saved now. For the first time in years my spirit feels light. Did you know that God loves you even when you’ve been a complete screw up? I have a father now, it’s God; couldn’t ask for a better father. We, you and I, couldn’t have a more faithful father, God is good. Thank you for praying for me all those years. I get it now.”

Leanna reached over and picked up Ben’s letter. “Let them talk, I know who you were. You were brilliant, thoughtful, sincere, and charming, a gifted strategist, a hard worker, and an amazing coach. But most of all you are my brother and a son of God, forgiven and renewed in Christ.” She turned off the computer realizing the letter in her hand, a gift from God, held all the info she needed to know about her brother. “Thank you God, you are faithful all the time.”

Debora Shelford Hobbs

A New Year Rebirth

recovery

 

On January first, each and every year, Carmen took down her Christmas tree and packed away all the brightly colored decorations that adorned her home. Typically, by the end of December she felt the decorations had overstayed their welcome and was eager to put them away, clean the house, and make way for a new year. However, this Christmas had been a particularly meaningful one; causing her to feel sentimental while working, not wanting the beauty of it to be packed away.

Carefully, Carmen removed a handmade ornament of the manger scene; created out of popsicle sticks, burlap, and cotton balls. Tenderly touching the scraggly remains of the cotton ball she smiled thinking about a time long ago. Cradling it like a precious object, she lovingly turned it over to see the name written in red crayon, across the back; it read Ian. “How many years had this simple ornament hung on their Christmas tree?”, she wondered.  Ticking off the years in her head she remembered Ian had been six when he made it.   “That was twenty-two years ago; so many unexpected and tragic things have happened in those twenty-two years” she thought. Tracing the name with her finger she remembered his cherub like face, crowned with blond hair, smiling up at her while showing off his masterpiece.

They’d lost that beautiful boy for years, but now he was back; Carmen smiled at this thought. Somehow, between work, their other three children, community involvement, and church, Ian had slipped away from them. At first he was quiet and methodical in his rebellion; careful not to step over well-defined family rules. He was smart, and spent tremendous energy blending in or looking like a “good kid” while walking on the edge of disaster. Finally, during his senior year in high school Ian was caught with drugs in his possession. After much heartache and legal fees he was given community service hours and was mandated to attend substance abuse classes. During the whole mess Ian never showed an ounce of remorse or a contrite spirit. In fact, he became more belligerent and arrogant; this was when Carmen and Jim knew he was in serious trouble. Although he attended the addiction classes he openly thought they were a joke and frequently made fun of the instructor’s ignorance. Thinking about Ian’s first encounter with the police drove the smile from Carmen’s face. She sat down on the couch, resting her head in her hands.

Their hearts were broken, Carmen spent hours researching on the internet for answers; none were to be found. Jim agreed to attend counseling with her but left each appointment feeling like a terrible parent. Eventually, they stopped attending together; Jim shut her out, and Carmen fell into depression. After struggling through the first year Carmen plugged into a support group and began to find strength enough to take care of her family. Next she learned how to ask for help and began to freely ask for prayer; which helped her cope but Ian was still out of control.

He spent years lost in drug addiction, absorbed in a world of self-delusion, unable to connect with reality. Eventually he was living on the streets panhandling and stealing to survive. Carmen and Jim lived in fear for and of their son. Sometimes he would show up high, all glassy eyed and cloudy, saying things that made no sense. Other times he would wait until they were gone, slip in a window and steal items of value. They were devastated and spent years trying to help him, but nothing worked. Overcome with grief and discouragement, Carmen fell into depression again. Ian’s addiction years hurt everyone in the family, they all bore the scares of his manipulation and lies.

Then a year and a half ago Tom, from a local drug outreach program sponsored by a church, found Ian passed out on the sidewalk. After several months of diligently building a relationship with Ian, Tom convinced him to enroll in a six month rehab clinic sponsored by a local church. To the amazement and joy of all who knew him, Ian graduated from the program having successfully owned up to all his wrong doings. That was four months ago and he was still clean and sober.

Lifting her head, Carmen flipped the simple ornament over again examining the three figures; Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. She marveled at how the birth of Jesus had brought hope to the hopeless, giving them a rebirth or new life. Ian and his past were washed clean through Jesus’ blood, he’d been given hope while in despair. Ian had come home for Christmas and Carmen thought her heart would break from joy having her whole family home for the holidays. For the first time in years Ian sat at the table talking with the family. He laughed, played games, and enjoyed helping with the dishes.

Ian had been open and honest with his family and talked freely about his gratitude for God’s forgiveness. In fact, he was eager to share what God had done in his life. When sharing about God’s healing power over addiction he said several things that stayed with Carmen, “My escape had become my prison” And “True freedom is found in the hope of God.” Tears of gratefulness slid down Carmen’s cheeks as the thought of these words of truth being spoken from her son who’d been lost in lies for so many years. “Thank You god”, she said out loud, “Thank You!”

Tears streamed down Carmen’s face as she stared at the simple ornament. Jesus’ birth made Ian’s rebirth possible; her heart felt overcome with gratitude. Standing in front of her dead and mostly deconstructed Christmas tree, ready to put away the old and make way for the new; Carmen understood what it all meant. Ian had been reborn and separated from his past for a new life through the birth and death of Jesus. Thank you God for your faithful love, she prayed, I’d lost hope but you didn’t. Thank you for a New Year Rebirth.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

REDEEMED

 Mary Redemption

Her room was still like time had stopped, Her eyes at nothing, stared                             Until a beep from the machine, brought her back crystal clear.                                       She looked down at her arm and saw the IV in its place                                                       Just for a moment, she had gone back, to another time in space. 

Tears trickled down that old drawn face, her lips began to quiver                                     As she recalled the years gone by and pain that she’d delivered.                                         It all seemed clear, as she looked back; it wasn’t clear back then.                                   She wished to have a second chance, some way to make amends. 

The angry names her mother hurled still made her cringe in pain                                  And knowing that she did the same brought grief, regret, and shame.                            She didn’t end dysfunction, as she was sure she would                                                        And life went by, so very fast; it was too hard to change. 

She looked up at the ceiling, and yelled out “Are You there?                                               Do You care about me? Can You remove despair?                                                                 Does hope exist? Can change be known? If so, then show the way!                                  Hear my prayer, see my heart; I’m buried in mistakes!” 

Questions filled her weary mind as she lay there exhausted                                                  Is it true that God restores the hurt and broken hearted?                                                   She shut her eyes; her shoulders shook, as tears continued falling                                With humbled heart, and contrite spirit; she longed for a new calling. 

The hours trickled slowly by with no response from heaven.                                                But a strange rest had filled her heart and peace was like a fragrance.                           That restful state was broken with a stroke upon her hair                                                      A voice that she had longed to hear said “Mom, I’ve news to share.” 

“A year ago, at my ropes end, I gave my heart to Jesus                                                               Since that day I’ve changed and grown, more than I can measure.                                        I’m learning to submit my will and die to my own way                                                                   The chains that tightly bound us, He’s breaking more each day.” 

“I love you Mom, and know your plan was never one to hurt us                                      You too were hurt, and it’s been said; hurt people… will hurt people.                            But hope has come into my heart, revealing a new path.                                                      We cannot change the hurt-filled past, but hopes with us at last!”  

“For I can see a future paved, with a new legacy                                                                         It’s there for us if we will grow and seek God on our  knees.                                                     In God’s all knowing timing, He’ll heal each hurt and scar                                                          Submitting all and letting go; our lives will be restored.                 

“The devil brought destruction, to our heart and soul                                                              But God is here to lift us up and take back all control.                                                             We can forgive each other, as Christ’s forgiven us                                                                     He’ll wash us clean and make us new as we give Him our trust.”  

“Dear Mother, I invite you, to join us in this path.                                                                        To know that you’re forgiven and all that’s past… is passed.”                                          That withered hand reached out to hers, as tears rolled down their faces.            With breaking voice the elder said, “OH…the years I wasted.”  

“I’m sorry for the things I’ve done, and for the words of pain                                                   I wish that I could turn back time and wash it all away.                                                              But know dear, that I love you, and I’m sorry for the hurt                                                           I need the hope that you have found to mend my broken heart.” 

Just before the morning broke with no bells or alarms                                                        With peaceful heart, she breathed her last, and went to Jesus’ arms.                             Her children knew that she was free from bitterness and shame                                  And they rejoiced, with hands upraised, to hope in Jesus’ name. 

God used her children’s hurt-filled past; took beauty from the ashes                                 As they reached out to hurting souls and others who had suffered.                               No troubled path, no chains that bind, no mountain sized life problems,                   Are greater than the power of God who brings good from our losses.                         But stubborn hearts we must lay down; to change, we must be willing                       And as we do, we shall fulfill, God’s awesome, glorious, calling.                           

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

You Are Set Free

 


Stacy sat at her kitchen table contemplating the reading from her weekly Bible study.  It was the story in Luke 7: 36 -50 that tells about a sinful woman, most likely a prostitute with addictions, who enters a Pharisee’s home, uninvited, determined to see Jesus.  With myopic focus she walks past a group of men eating then kneels down before Jesus and wash his feet with her tears, then wipes them away with her hair.  Finally she produces an alabaster jar of perfume and anoints his feet with the expensive substance.  The Pharisee was shocked that Jesus would let this woman touch him, much less wash his feet.  However, Jesus treated the woman with grace and said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.  Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”  It was this acknowledgement of the woman’s desire to honor him along with the freely given grace and forgiveness that touched Stacy’s heart. 

It had been five years since Stacy had given her heart to the Lord and those years were wonderfully transformative.  Immediately after receiving Christ she’d been given a Bible and wise words that said “in this Bible you will find the blueprint to God’s love and for a life well lived.”  She’d been hungry for answers and began reading the Word daily.  Within its pages she found comfort, wisdom, insight, instructions, and encouragement.  Stacy was in love with the Lord and hungry to please him. 

However, on occasions something would trigger guilt over her less-than-perfect past.  This little niggling of guilt and shame would quickly turn into frequent negative thoughts.   Now, Stacy hadn’t been a prostitute, but she had been an adventurous teen and in her twenties made some big mistakes that weighed heavy on her mind.  And during weak moments, when the past felt more real than today, the guilt she’d been set free from by Christ, would creep back into her thoughts like a slippery snake and slithered its way back into her life.

That’s what the last few weeks had been like for Stacy.  Feelings of unworthiness kept creeping into her contemplations.  Soon these thoughts of worthlessness and guilt turned into depression and the world around her became gray and uninviting.  When she looked into the mirror it wasn’t her reflection she saw, it was failure.  When a friend said something nice, she heard lies.  Eventually, words of discouragement were just about all that existed in her thought-life.  So when she read about Jesus’ compassion and grace for the worldly woman she felt like it was speaking directly to her.  Jesus hadn’t condemned the woman or judged her for being a prostitute like most people in her town.  Instead he acknowledged her faith in him, then forgave her sins and said go in peace. 

Peace, go in Peace.  “Your sins have been forgiven.  Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”  These words massaged Stacy’s troubled mind.  How had she forgotten them so quickly?  Why, at times, did the past have such a strong hold on her?  Why had she forgotten the profound truth that God’s love had forgiven her sins and removed them from her?  Psalms 103:12 says “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” She recited this verse out loud along with 2 Corinthians 5:17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  For the first time in days a prayer freely crossed her lips, “Lord, thank you for setting me free from my sins.  Thank you that I’m a new creation in you.  Thank you for knowing my heart, I love you Lord.” 

Stacy got up from the table and started pacing around her kitchen while claiming out loud all the things God had set her free from.  In claiming them audibly she found courage and strength.  And in her humble gratitude for God’s grace she found victory over the negative power of the guilt and shame from her past.  She was a new creation in Christ.

Debora Shelford Hobbs